The League of American Bicyclists released their annual Bicycle Friendly States rankings last week and Maryland and Virginia both did well, ranking 10th and 13th respectively. But for Maryland this represented a drop, from 7th in 2014; while Virginia managed to climb from 18th. Washington state came in first, again, and Alabama came in last, again.
Maryland's score dropped in both the "Legislation and Enforcement" and "Education and Encouragement" categories and they received only 49 out of 100 possible points. They got credit for a new state Bicycle Plan, but their feedback includes a lot of issues that really do need to be addressed. LAB recommends that the state
- Amend Maryland’s safe passing law which requires a minimum distance of 3 feet so that there are fewer exceptions to the minimum distance requirement
- Improve bicycle-related crash reporting. As highway safety plans are based on crash data, under-reporting of bike crashes has made it difficult to assess the effectiveness of Maryland’s efforts to improve bike safety.
- Adopt performance measures, such as mode shift or a low percentage of exempted projects, to better track and support Complete Streets/Bike Accommodation Policy compliance. Conduct analysis of how Complete Streets approaches have improved roadway conditions so that the public and agency staff understands the importance of Complete Streets.
- Adopt a mode share goal for biking to encourage the integration of bicycle transportation needs into all transportation and land use policy and project decisions. • Improve bicycle network connectivity so that more people can access retail, work, and educational facilities safely and conveniently by bike. Consider innovative approaches to network analysis based on stress levels experienced by bicyclists.
- Provide specific training to engineers and planners on how to implement the Complete Streets/ Accommodation Policy in everyday decisions.
Virginia's score dropped in the "Legislation and Enforcement" category, but improved in the "Infrastructure and Funding" and "Education and Encouragement" categories and the state received 41 out of 100 possible points. They got credit for a new 3-foot passing law and dedicated state funding, but also identified areas for Virginia to improve:
- Update law that makes maintenance payments to cities based upon the number of moving lane miles available and which discourages road diets and bicycle lanes in urban areas. Road diets can substantially increase bicyclist and pedestrian safety without significant impacts on automotive mobility. Policies should support road diets and not punish communities for implementing road diets by reducing payments when automotive lanes are removed.
- Adopt a law prohibiting a motorist from opening an automobile’s door unless the motorist is able to do so safely. Virginia is one of only 10 states to not have this type of law.
- Incentivize and document compliance with Commonwealth Transportation Board policies related to inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in projects.
- Dedicate state funding for bicycle projects and programs, especially those focused on safety, eliminating gaps and increasing access for bicycle networks. Creating programmatic funding allows local communities to better understand how to access state funding or helps guide the state’s funding priorities for maximum impact.
- Adopt a mode share goal for biking to encourage the integration of bicycle transportation needs into all transportation and land use policy and project decisions.
- Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian. Model language is available here.
- Add bicycle safety as an emphasis area in the state Strategic Highway Safety Plan and aggressively fund bike safety projects.